Kumar Patel invented the carbon dioxide laser in the early 1960s while at Bell Labs. Although many types of lasers exist, the CO2 laser is now a common and versatile laser that is highly efficient and has a reasonable cost. CO2 lasers ushered the area of high power laser applications.
The CO2 laser is widely used in industrial applications including cutting, welding, engraving, and drilling a variety of materials such as metal, ceramics, and plastic. Military applications include range finding, the determination of an exact distance to a target. Furthermore, CO2 lasers have long been popular in the medical field. Laser scalpels offer a high degree of precision and are used in a range of surgical procedures. They are also popular for use in skin resurfacing and dermabrasion, and for treating wrinkles, scars, and other skin conditions. Applications for the CO2 laser continue to be developed.
After 32 years at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Patel became Vice Chancellor for Research at UCLA. In 2000, he started his own company, Pranalytica, to manufacture mid-infrared quantum cascade laser systems and gas sensing instruments. Patel, who attended the University of Poona in India for his undergraduate degree, received his M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford.